For a number of years, flight attendants and pilots working for U.S.-based airlines have been able to take part in what is referred to as the ‘Known Crewmember Program’. Essentially, the program allows airline crew members to access a separate security line at TSA airport screening points where they can simply show their ID and go on there way without being subjected to the usual checks like walking through a metal detector or having their bags searched.
The thinking behind the Known Crewmember program is that flight attendants and pilots pose a far smaller risk to aviation security, not only because of the job they do but because they’ve already gone through thorough background checks. That being said, random screening or what’s called ‘Unpredictable Screening Procedures’ do take place as a final check and balance.
In the past, a few changes have been made to the program. In 2015, for example, the TSA amended its eligibility criteria and allowed crew members out of uniform to access the KCM lane, whether or not they were travelling on company business or for personal reasons.
Yet just a year later, the TSA changed its stance slightly and banned crew members out of uniform using the KCM access point if they were travelling to an international destination for personal reasons.
And now comes another change – one that has raised eyebrows because not only is it being implemented at really short notice but because the TSA decided to issue the alert out of office hours on a weekend.
This time, the TSA says all crew members must be in uniform when accessing the Known Crew Member lane – no exceptions. In addition, the random screening process is being beefed up as well. The change has led to the Association of Flight Attendants wondering whether the sudden policy shift could be the result of a “credible threat.”
Neither the TSA or the Department for Homeland Security has commented on the reason behind the change. The latest bulletin from the National Terrorism Advisory System warns that “terrorists continue to target commercial aviation and air cargo, including with concealed explosives.”